“Every day is sunshine,” Lily Gan, who is a patient at HCA Kang Le Day Hospice, says with a cheery smile. “I look forward to coming to Kang Le every morning!”
It is hard to imagine that the bubbly and cheerful lady is living with advanced cancer. But her sunshine is hard won – it is the result of a valiant battle with the dark clouds of pain and despair.
Life had been relatively uneventful up until Lily’s diagnosis several years ago. “I was very healthy and I exercised regularly,” she shares. “One day, I experienced a sudden haemorrhage and I was diagnosed with cervical cancer after.”
Lily recalls the despair she felt then. “There was once the catheter started to leak. I tried to readjust it but I couldn’t handle it and I started to bleed. I was devastated.”
Prior to the illness, she enjoyed volunteering at the old folks’ home, making visits to stay alone elderly and bringing food rations to their homes. But all these came to a halt when Lily fell ill. Being cooped up at home took a toll on her mental wellbeing and compounded her feelings of isolation. “I was wheelchair bound then,” she explains. “In the day, my husband and children had to go to work and school respectively, so I was alone at home.”
Lily was under HCA’s home hospice care then and her primary care nurse, Wei Pinjuan, suggested for her to attend HCA Kang Le Day Hospice. “When Pinjuan asked if I would like to go to Kang Le, I thought it would be a depressing place full of sad patients,” Lily says.
Instead, she was caught by surprise at what she saw and experienced. Brimming with warmth and positivity, each weekday is filled with different activities run by volunteers, ranging from light exercises to arts and crafts and outings. “I felt a difference in my mood within days,” she says with a bright smile.
Lily guides her friends at HCA Kang Le Day Hospice during a session of lantern-making.
Lily’s zest for life quickly returned, buoyed by encouragement from HCA’s staff and volunteers and camaraderie among the patients. Inspired to return the kindness she had received, Lily tries to help out in any way she can. These include simple tasks like folding the patients’ blankets and helping fellow patients with daily activities.
Bonded by a common experience of illness and discomfort, Lily also takes the time to talk to new patients and get to know them better. “I try to talk to and encourage them when I see them alone,” she says.
Reflecting on her own experiences, Lily says, “It is easy to be focused on the short time left, but making the most out of the remaining days is crucial.”
It is evident Lily derives much joy from her time at Kang Le. “When the van reaches the gantry to Kang Le, we all think ‘home sweet home’!” she exclaims.
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